Robot 6

Bart Sears’ posters draw connection between comics and sports

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I’ve always been interested in the intersection between comics and sports. The stereotypical comics-reading nerd isn’t much of an athletics buff, but there are many, many people who enjoy both. Even those who don’t can recognize that comics and sports seem to scratch similar itches for their fans by offering bottomless rabbit holes of involvement. Final Four brackets and fantasy football leagues require and celebrate the same kind of obsessive knowledge that comics fans enjoy sharing and discussing.

Ron Marz is a great example of a combination comics/sports aficionado: His Twitter stream is just as likely to discuss the Mets as Metropolis, and he’s even written a sports comic, The Protectorscreated by Chicago Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije and drawn by Bart Sears.

It was also Marz who pointed me toward the NFL Heroes posters below, also drawn by Sears, featuring “rocket-armed quarterback” Jay Cutler, “defensive dominator” Julius Peppers, and “legendary linebacker” Brian Urlacher. They’re available from Idonije’s Athleta Comics.

I asked Sears and Idonijie to talk a little about their love of comics and sports and how those things connect for them.

“We have superheroes in our everyday life,” Sears told me. “Men and women who do amazing, wondrous things, feats of near-magic far beyond the abilities of normal humans. We call them pro athletes. It just makes sense that some of these gifted people’s abilities would go even farther than on-the-field wonder, taking them straight into the realm of heroic fantasy.”

Idonije said, ”I’ve always loved sports and I have always been a comic book fan, and I believe the two worlds of sports and comics is a very natural union. Many great stories are found within the lives of those professional athletes we love and admire. Their amazing abilities often transcend their field of play as they motivate the hero in all of us to be more and to do more. Athleta Comics specializes in magnifying these incredible sports heroes through the lens of comics. With every picture and every story, we will showcase our greatest heroes.”

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11 Comments

So now that Idonije is with the Detroit Lions, how about another set of these featuring Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh?

Thanks Eric,
Yes, many others are in the works — including athletes from other sports as well.

There really isn’t a connection between sports and comics, they’re two completely different entities entirely. as far as a comic book character having to be physically fit perhaps there is a slight similarity. the demographics for sports and comic books are entirely different spectrum’s. take a look at the great stan lees attempt in the mid nineties, with super pro. and more often than not people into sports have often been at odds with comic book readers and creators, especially in adolescent years. I have been following many different titles and arcs since age yet and I have not seen a successful sports comic yet. simply stated many comic book readers find sports boring and alienating. I for one enjoy physical fitness, but I can not sit through ten minutes of any sports game. I believe the “sports” pitch doesn’t set well with many readers because its something that they dont find interesting or stimulating. you can expect a guy who is familiar with quantum theory to be overly excited over sports stats and what not, the majority of intelligent minds aren’t wired that way. maybe it will work for the juvenile connoisseur, but for the seasoned comic book fan I seriously doubt it.

and p.s. I LOVE being the stereotypical “comics nerd” as mentioned in the article above, only with just enough muscle to back it up. here’s to publishing and the comic book /graphic novel industry.

@Tommy-Never: Dude, you’re making a lot of assumptions about what makes a “typical” comic book reader. You don’t have to be some kind of science genius to be a geek. I’m a construction worker with a high school education, I’m a hockey fanatic, and I love comic books with every fibre of my being. None of these things are mutually exclusive. As I kind of straddle the line between a few different subcultures, I’ve always had trouble fitting in with any of them, but something I’ve always loved about the comics scene is that it seems to attract (and usually welcome) all types. Most geeks are quite welcoming of even an “outsider” like me. I’m rambling here, but I guess my point is that it seriously bugs me that you purport to speak for some majority of comics fandom when you just come off as a pretentious elitist who thinks sports are below your intelligence.
Whatever, I’ve said my piece. Good day to you sir.

“I’m rambling here, but I guess my point is that it seriously bugs me that you purport to speak for some majority of comics fandom when you just come off as a pretentious elitist who thinks sports are below your intelligence.
Whatever, I’ve said my piece. Good day to you sir.” well I believe that is your opinion, such as I am allowed to express mine I am sure it is only right for you or anyone else to express a opposing view point. I apologize that you’re seriously “bugged” but it sounds like a personal issue. if I am wrong or bias please show tangible evidence that my statements are completely off. there has never been a successful “sports” comic book storyline. obviously there must be a logical reason. numbers do not lie, and if a power house such as the likes of stan lee couldn’t infuse the two in a project I doubt anyone ever could. not saying it won’t ever happen, but not now, or for a while from now. being a “stereotypical nerd” or “stereotypical geek” requires one main thing in the eyes of the “in-crowd” a intelligence that threatens those whom feel they don’t possess it. I never said sports were “below my intelligence” nor did I insinuate that they were. Just as every other human being I have my preferences, sports are not one of them. see the awesome thing about comic books is that the characters are easy to identify with, for decades no one really identified with flash thompson, but every reader effortlessly saw many facets of themselves in peter parker, there is a tangible and logical explanation for that. see I was a “GEEK” “NERD” and “OUTSIDER” way before it was fashionable. so the connotation that a human being possessing vast knowledge and intelligence is a “nerd” or “geek” still rubs me the wrong way, and those labels were placed on people by the less intelligent, mentally inferior bullies, who oddly enough loved sports. so before you make assumptions, cast rude labels and offense statements and allege you are a geek and outsider do a little history.

Before I “allege” I am a geek? My god you’re an asshole. I’m a huge lover of comics and sci-fi and have just as much right to proudly declare myself a geek as you do. The point I was trying to make earlier was that many different kinds of people can by comics fans, not just the stereotypical ones that you’re so glad to be a part of. If a comics fan likes sports or isn’t particularly smart, it doesn’t make their geekiness any less legitimate. They’re just a different kind of geek.

Also, I wasn’t disagreeing that there had never been a successful sports-related comic, I just took exception to your saying that comics fans and sports fans don’t mix. I was angry and tired so I rambled a bit, but I guess that’s my point in a nutshell

and P.S. – You weren’t SUPPOSED to identify with Flash Thompson. He was a bully who picked on the main character. He was specifically written to be unlikeable. If he’d just been a supporting character rather than an antagonist, people would be much more sympathetic to him.

I don’t know… Comics and sports to seem to mix fairly frequently. Sports frequently appear in comics (one of the greatest Superman stories is when he boxed Muhammad Ali). And vice versa (Dwayne Wade refering to himself as “The Flash”, Shaq and Dwight Howard laying claim to Superman, movie promos where they mix basketball footage with scenes from the latest X-Men movie). Shoot, why not? The original superheroes were based on circus strong men, when kids would marvel as their strength and, yes, athleticism.

Then again, it’s not so weird where I live to have a local comic shop that sells both comics and sports memorabilia.

I’m not going to engage with Tommy-Never, because he’s an elitist asshole (this is coming, btw, from someone in a PhD program who loves both comics *and* football), but the question of why sports comics haven’t worked out is a really interesting one.

Despite loving both, I probably wouldn’t read a comic about real football players because I think it would just feel strange to read fiction about people whose lives and careers I follow in real life (these posters aren’t really doin’ it for me, either, but that’s probably because the Bears aren’t my team). I think comics about real/fictionalized players would also remind me too much of those cheesy PSA comics I remember from when I was a kid, where a character learned an Important Lesson about bullying or drugs or something from a pro athlete who happened to be in the neighborhood. And I’d be nervous about sports comics falling into that mold.

What I think I would enjoy would be an entirely fictional comic that takes place in the world of pro football (or other sports) *and* has something beyond that, with original characters and strong storytelling (so, not a half-hearted NFL tie-in with bad art) and events that go beyond the football field. The Protectors seems to fit that mold, although I’m just hearing about it now, the closest I can find to a release date is “the fall,” and I can’t add it to my comixology pull list, which is kind of annoying and makes it less likely that I’ll remember to look for it. I mean, I hope it’s good and I’m able to check it out, but I’m not paying $10 for a sight unseen #0 issue online.

Look, ever since I was a kid I always loved to play baseball and basketball, and I loved to read comic books just as much. To this day, I’m a huge sports fan and comic book fan. Whenever I get hyped playing sports, I do the classic Clark Kent thing ripping his shirt, revealing the “S” symbol. It’s the same thing you see athletes do on TV. And I credit comics to that all the way. Anyway, to say there is no kind of connection between sports and comics is ridiculous. The superheroes and story arcs in comics can relate to the sports world 100%. Those heroes are called pro athletes. They do things extraordinary things that the “normal everyday person” cannot. I’ll give you some examples. Have you ever heard of Spud Webb or Nate Robinson? These guys are under 5’9″, have 40 inch verticals, and can dunk the basketball into a 10ft rim with ease. Or Usain Bolt, running a 100 meter dash in 8 seconds with no problem? What about Brian Shaw, a strongman who deadlifted 975 lbs? Basically what I’m saying is these are some people who many dream of being, like how readers wondered what they’d be like if they had superpowers. And as far as story arcs go, they compare to sports history. Sports fans watch their favorite teams on a regular basis, as comic book readers read their issues on a weekly or even daily basis. If you don’t think sports and comics connect in any way, then your ignorance is keeping you from realizing it and your effort to expand your interests is poor.

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